January 7 - Plough Monday

Posted on January 7, 2019

(First Monday after January 6)

Here's a weird - and old - holiday:

Plough Monday is the traditional start of the agricultural year in Britain. (If it were the U.S., it'd be "Plow Monday.")

Plough Monday is supposed to mark the resumption of work after all the holidays. (January 6 is Epiphany, so many Christmas/New Year celebrations stretch until that date.) But, funnily enough, even though there's  been non-stop holidays for more than a month, with tons of excuses to "eat, drink, and make merry" instead of working, Plough Monday recognizes the resumption of work by being a day when people "eat, drink, and make merry" instead of working!

Here's how the holiday was celebrated in some regions: Either an old woman or a boy dressed up as an old woman would play a character called "Bessy," and a man dressed up as an animal character called "the Fool" would join up with musicians and go from door to door, dragging a plough. 

Were they treating homeowners with songs? Did they get treats?

Actually, apparently the door-to-door folks were collecting money. Money to buy seeds for planting?  Maybe it was an olde-fashioned crowd-sourcing kickstarter sort of situation?

There was often Molly Dancing and sword dancing and "Plough Pudding," which was a meat and onion pudding made with boiled suet.

Nowadays, some villages and towns have revived Plough Day - at least the dancing and feasting and revelry part of it. A modern variation is men or boys dressing in a layer of straw, and called Straw Bears, going door to door to beg for money.

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